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Revolution and Martyrdom

Sun, Mar 11, 2001 08:34PM -0600

Powerful, powerful stuff. I'm currently reading The Philippines: A Singular and a Plural Place by David Joel Steinberg. [ Entry at Fatbrain.com] This guy edited the book we used in my Southeast Asian Studies Class my freshman year at Cal. His book was recommended to me by a poster on soc.culture.filipino, a newsgroup I occasionally lurk on and sometimes even post to. I just finished reading a passage regarding the assasination of Benigno Aquino and I seriously wept.

Before you go on accusing me of mental instability, let me just contextualize it by mentioning that it is the middle (well, beginning of) Lent, and since I was raised as a Roman Catholic, the concept of crucifixion and martyrdom has really permeated my being. Add to this some rather dramatic family history, particularly during WWII, and the theme of how the eldest child in my mother's family has always sacrificed themself, and hopefully you can begin to understand why this story might touch me so.

What really killed me was this poem Aquino wrote while Marcos imprisoned him:

I am burning the candle of my life in the dark with no one to benefit from its light. The candle slowly melts away soon its wick will be burned out, and the light is gone! If someone will only gather the melted wax, reshape it, give it a new wick-- for another fleeting moment my candle can once again light the dark be of service one more time and then... goodbye

The passage in Steinberg's book goes on to describe his widow's memories of their exile in the U.S., and that's when I really choked up. I mean, at the same time, I guess I'm sort of remembering watching Dogeaters in La Jolla in 1998 and remembering being outraged and infinitely saddened when they re-enacted a scene that is supposed to be reminiscent of the assasination (all the names were changed in the book the play was based on, but the associations were pretty transparent.) The thing that really got me then was the guy they murdered just so they could have a suspect. In the play, they portrayed the fall guy as a really sympathetic character. In contrast, Steinberg describes him as a criminal. But I'm sure the truth is somewhere in between, and it doesn't really change the despicability of the act.

In any case, it all made me wonder what would be worse--being the one martyred, or being the one left behind. I still admire Corazon Aquino despite her failings, and I remember writing a report on her when I was in elementary school.

Since I'm partly Ilocano, I can't help but buy into the idea that it was really all Imelda's fault. <g>

But seriously, stories like this make me lose faith in humanity. Sometimes it seems like you only have two choices: to be wrong, or to be dead.

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